“Waste not fresh tears over old griefs.” -Euripides
I somehow have managed to lose my parents before the age of 21. And by somehow I mean a mutual maelstrom of disease coupled with personal indulgence and excess.
At 12, my father passed away in February. At 20, my mother passed away in June. Before I had turned 21, I had lost the two key figures in my life, often a problem many don’t face until their 40s or for some even later. And while naturally you always find one or two that have managed to lose their parents in various ways such as divorce or a mutual falling out, it is difficult to be young and parentless.
The most difficult part of it I’ve found is that it’s difficult to not talk about it. Now, don’t get me wrong I do my best not to wear my parentless status like a badge but it’s difficult when people ask about my family or how my parents are I have to admit that they are not of the living. The idea of “visiting my parents” would involve visiting two cemeteries.
I almost can’t avoid the topic, even when I try to. So what do you do when you’re young and parentless?
I don’t feel “left out” when it comes to certain holidays. I don’t feel bitter or angry about it. What I suppose to most is so interesting is my willingness and openness to discuss that, yes in fact I have lost my parents. That yes, I was raised by my aunts. That yes, I am in a category that not even many of my older acquaintances are in. I am open and willing to talk about it for one reason and really one reason alone: Because I’m not ashamed of it. Now, once more, I don’t wear it as a badge of honor. The fact that I have endured great personal tragedy has shaped me but won’t ever wholly defined me.
I am more than the sum of the loss of my parents. I am also more than just a living visage to them. I am me. Through my parents, I gained great strength but the wit, character, demeanor and overall eccentric awesomeness that many call “Amanda” is a product of a rather unconventionally conventional life of fantastical experiences and truly spectacular individuals.
I am the picture definition of the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” and I was truly raised by a village of extended family, family, and friends.
I miss my nuclear family, naturally. Of course I do. I love my mom and my dad and I’m sad they are not here. I could never imagine the pain I felt knowing they missed some of the biggest milestones of my life and will continue to be physically absent as I reach further milestones. And while, yes I believe they are with me in an esoteric sense, I can admit it was bittersweet not seeing my mother at my college graduation. (Though I have considered using plants as stand ins for the next few milestones.)
I take this time to pen such a personal topic because October is in fact the birth month of both of my parents. My mother on the 1st, my father on the 11th. And in this time, many very close to me tend to flock around me and worry in excess to assure that I’m alright and they dance delicately around the topic. I have had friends stop in mid-sentence discussing a fight they had with their mother. Entire conversations have been derailed, topics shelved and discussions stopped because people just don’t seem to know how to deal with the subject. And my open charming openness about it is equally disarming to people.
The best way to deal with that sort of situation? Just continue. Trust me, if it is truly upsetting, it will show. Have the discussion, apologize if needed and then just move on. (Ice cream also helps, if you continue to feel guilty.)
As I move through yet another October, I want to thank everyone close to me. I may not have my parents with me in this life, but I’m by no means alone. I have a fantastic network and extended family of people that have supported me from the time I was a very small girl. From the 12 year old still receiving callous picture books about mortality, to the 20 year old deciding what phrase should go on her mother’s headstone to the 24 year old young professional with a Hello Kitty-covered desk and a bad habit of baking all day on Saturdays.
Happy Birthday, Mom and Dad. If there’s cake, I hope it’s red velvet.